Looking at Christmas Over My Shoulder

Christmas feast we put on our bibs
Tore into root veggies and BBQ ribs
Slurped salad and jello and apple pies
Discovered our tummies were smaller than eyes
Opened gifts both big and small
Had a mound of wrapping from it all
Hugs and kisses one from the other
Filled with love for neighbor and brother
Bowed our heads to ask for a blessing
As one unopened gift kept us all guessing
Carefully ripped paper and took off tape
Sucussed the box to ascertain shape
With wonder and awe we lifted the end
Found it was goodies sent by a friend
Shared the contents with all in the room
Still have some left that we couldn’t consume!

It was a wonderful Christmas. We started the festivities with Christmas Eve vigil Mass at 10:00 pm that lasted until midnight. Sparky sang with the choir. They did a great job singing “And The Glory Of The Lord” along with the “Hallelujah Chorus” from Handel’s Messiah. The big song was “O Magnum Mysterium” which they had struggled with but it finally came together for the vigil Mass. Fr. Jacob was ecstatic as it is one of his favorite pieces (and he didn’t hesitate to tell everyone)! I was able to sit with my in-laws which was nice since Sparky was up in the choir loft.

Christmas Day started early with lots of food prep. I baked pies. Pumpkin and a special apple using Cortland, Mutsu, and Empire.

I made green bean casserole and cut up sweet potatoes, russet potatoes, parsnips and Brussels sprouts to roast.
Barbecue ribs were on the menu as well. I made a full slab of pork ribs and a slab of baby back ribs. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to get them in the pans but with a little creative cutting everything fit. All was cooked and ready to put on the table on time! (a Christmas miracle)!

As for the gifts, well, everyone got exactly what the wanted even if it wasn’t on their list! I gave Sparky a strange gift – a pair of stainless steel seafood crackers. On the docket is his very own lobster that I will cook and serve to him for his birthday. I would have liked to put the lobster under the tree but that would have been a little too messy! One of my favorite gifts is a special cushion for my computer chair. It is deluxe. It is the Purple® Seat Cushion that is touted to “save your tush with the cush, and cradle your bum, comfort you wherever you plant your patootie, prevents anything from tormenting your tushie, has the the comfort your keister craves, and saves your derriere on any chair, anywhere!” As far as testimonials go I’d say this product lives up to the hype in the end…The boys got bed sheets and other similarly requested items. I’d told son#2 that a weighted blanket was out of the price range (only $70 for a twin size) but I scored one on sale at a pre-black Friday sale for half price so he got his wish! He had to take it out of the package and then nearly trapped himself under the weight of the thing. It didn’t seem to be a very comfortable blanket to me but he really liked it. Son#1 had asked for a humidifier and was able to find a warm mist one for the same price as the weighted blanket. Even though they are now adult I like to keep things even. I’d hate for them to think that I had a favorite! They are both my favorite sons! The poem above pretty much sums up the day. The mystery gift was from a coworker that didn’t have a name on it. I’d completely forgotten about it after I put it under the tree. It was a nice snack but even with Sparky’s parents helping there were too many cookies to consume. I added the uneaten ones to the mound that I took to the big (40+ people) gathering. That was a whole different level of festivities!! So. Much. Food!

I hope that all your celebrations were filled with joy and warmth and kindness. We will be heading out for our annual New Years Eve dinner with friends. It will be an opportunity to dress fancy and act like we are in the 1% (don’t laugh too hard – make believe is good to indulge in every once in awhile)! This year we are going to the Emporium and hopefully we will be seated so that we can see the river all lit up…

Looking at Three Generations

This was taken on a Sunday morning (maybe Easter) as my Great Grandmother, Grandmother, and my Mother were preparing to leave for church. The house was in Muncie, Indiana and was where my Grandma lived until she moved in with us. At the time of this photo, the front porch hadn’t had the louvered glass windows installed and the peony bushes hadn’t grown to encroach on the walk. My Great Grandmother aka G’ma Bessie was decked out in a hat that my mother described as a “flying saucer” hat. This was taken some time after my mother’s graduation from HS and before graduation from college so around 1952-54. It was early Spring and still cool in the mornings so my Grandma Marceil could get away with wearing a fur jacket. She loved furs and would wear a mink stole even in the summer when going to church. The photo is blurry and the colors washed out by age so it is hard to tell but they are all redheads. I was the 4th generation ginger in the family. Sadly neither of my sons has red hair but my niece has flaming red hair putting her square as the 5th generation… By the time I can remember my G’ma Bessie she had white hair. My Grandma Marceil had strawberry blond hair with darker red at the back and sides and a white “bride of Frankenstein” stripe in the front. I guess I take after her – I have the white stripes at my temples…

This post was inspired by Calmkate’s post of Friday Fun titled Family Portrait. To check out her post and all the links to those who picked up the gauntlet for this prompt go HERE.

Looking at a Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas friends! Today Sparky and I are with family and friends celebrating the birth of Jesus the Christ. I wish for you all the warmth of friendship, the comfort of home, and the joy of love! Below is the photo Sparky and I used for our Christmas cards this year. If you were lucky enough to be on our list then you have already seen this. For all the rest imagine we are looking directly at you and wishing you JOY and PEACE this holiday.

Looking at Life Coming at Me

This last run up to Christmas Day has been very busy. Not to negate the fun bits of which there are many but it has been a bit rough in other spots. It all started with the Christmas cookie hilarity. I baked cookies with saintvi. At one point we were laughing so hard I was crying. I don’t know if she was crying because it was hard to see through the tears. We had dinner and then packed up some cookies and traveled an hour to present them to friends to spread the Christmas cheer (which is in short supply when recovering from back surgery and caring for an active toddler). All went well. It was a late night and I had to work the next day.

That was when things took a turn for the worst. I was still coughing from the remnants of the cold. According to the doctor I was all better – except for the cough. Seems this bug tends to hit you hard and then linger. The day went without a hitch until lunch. I had a lunch date with a former coworker. She had a lot on her mind. We went to the Indian Gardens to eat and talk. We had finished eating and all was well until I had a coughing fit. It was one of those coughing jags that doesn’t end well. A couple sips of water and a nose blow and I thought it was over until it wasn’t. Yes, I tossed my cookies. Well not all my cookies – mostly just some mucus. I was able to contain it in a napkin and a tissue and my friend’s napkin and 2 more tissues. I was very embarrassed. A few sips of water and we left. Walking to the car I had another coughing fit and expelled a little more mucus and lunch in the parking lot. My friend was very concerned but I really was fine. And after getting rid of all the mucus I’d swallowed I felt much better.

We headed back to the campus to drop her off. A white van sped past us. As the van cut in front of me, the Christmas tree strapped to the roof took flight and landed in the road. I was able to apply my brakes in time to avoid completely running over the tree. As I put on my hazard lights, my friend jumped out of the car and dragged the tree onto the grass between the curb and the sidewalk. The van never stopped! We continued on to campus. It was a harrowing lunch experience in multiple ways. As soon as I got home son#1 arrived to go on our shopping trek. As a precaution I took an expectorant, decongestant and antihistamine tablet in hope of avoiding any more coughing jags. It worked and the shopping was successful. We arrived home minutes before Sparky. Sparky and I then jumped into the car to go to a Christmas dinner party. That was just one day!!

And every day since has been just as busy with fun and disasters in equal portions. There was the exuberant lab holiday lunch resulting in me having to consume a bottle of Propel, 3 Jarritos sodas (2 mango and 1 pineapple), and a glass of tap water to attempt to quell the fire from the aji panca aioli and chimichurri sauce that was slathered on the yucca fries and the Jamaican jerk chicken. I had even asked if the sauce was spicy and was assured that it was not. The waiter lied. Perhaps for the others seated at the table it was bland but to my sensitive tongue it was fiery! I ended up with such heart burn that I had to spend the night propped up in bed sipping water and chewing on Tums!!

Then there was the shopping experience with son#2. We had a productive purchasing experience and leisurely stroll through the mall and got our steps in. As we were walking back to the car a very impatient and angry couple nearly ran over us. I noticed that the car was coming up behind us and had moved to the side. As they passed us (it was a very full mall parking lot and the cars in front of us were crawling in hopes of finding a parking spot), the passenger window went down and the woman yelled that she would “beat the !!*^# out of you and your #*@%# mother”. My son takes after his father and shouted back, “Merry Christmas!” The woman was hanging out of the window cursing and waving her hands in an obscene gesture as the driver hit the gas and sped away. Son#2 commented that it wasn’t his fault that some people are in a bad mood because they procrastinated to the last minute to do their shopping (he was just getting a few last minute items and had completed all the major shopping).

And I could go on but you get the idea. In that vein, I’ll leave you with a little acrostic poem:
People hurry to spend
Every dime on the gifts they will send
All wasted in the end
Cash can’t buy love for a friend
Even if that’s what we intend

Looking Reflective

Calmkate posted on her Friday Fun that she wanted posts with photos or words “please use the word “Reflective’ to create by pic or words how it has impacted your life. So without further ado:

I am made of silvered glass
Shiny and fragile
What you see will never last
Its only a reflection

I mirror the colors I’m shown
Copy the world
What I show I don’t own
Its only a reflection

When the light fades to black
And no image remains
It is obvious I lack
A divine reflection

Shatter the glass with a blow
Release the image within
Move from mimic to glow
A divine reflection

I was taught that to really understand you needed to listen and then repeat what was said in your own words allowing for correction or fine tuning of your understanding. This is a standard technique. However, too often I see people parroting what they have heard – verbatim without any comprehension. As in the poem they become merely a reflective surface. They lack depth. They don’t absorb but only reflect. This is a sad state of existence. We were meant to have free will and as such we are required to exercise it. We must engage our brains and look at the world. We should be willing to evaluate and re-evaluate life experiences (not as incessant navel gazing) in an effort make course corrections. We should strive to be reflective (as in relating to or characterized by deep thought; thoughtful) and reflective (providing a reflection) as long as we are careful about what we mirror!

Looking at the Mucus

Many years ago I was diagnosed with allergies to dust mites and mold after suffering with pneumonia/bronchitis every year between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Acute exposure would send me into asthmatic spasms resulting in the need for an inhaler and daily allergy medication. After many years on the medication my insurance company stopped covering it. I was able to purchase the tablets from a local pharmacy with money from a medical spending account. Then the unthinkable happened – the manufacturer discontinued the production. I was faced with purchasing the components individually and making my own allergy cocktail. It was so expensive that after 1 month I had to admit defeat. I went to the doctor, tried several other allergy medications and finally weaned myself off all allergy drugs. That was about 2004 and I’ve instituted other control measures like: new pillows every 6 months, changing bed linens every week, vacuuming daily to weekly, replacing carpet with laminate floors, changing the furnace filter once a month in the summer and 2x a month in the winter… Basically using every tool in the arsenal except allergy medications. And this year I have failed. I’m starting this Advent with an old familiar friend – mucus and a horrible cough which I’ve determined will NOT become bronchitis/pneumonia.

I drank lots of liquids which just fueled the mucus making machinery. I resorted to Mentholatum and Halls cough drops. At first it was just a cold at least that is what Sparky had. But mine metamorphosed into the precursor of bronchitis. I attributed this to the immunological assault of the Shingles vaccination I received. The first one wasn’t bad but this second one about killed me. My arm was sore as in “don’t touch my arm or neck or back” and it was red and hot. That lasted a week. In the interim my cold went from a minor case of post nasal drip and a slightly scratchy throat to mucus gushing from my sinuses in every direction. The only way I could breathe was to lay on my side. If I laid on my side my arm was screaming in pain. I was sleep deprived. After the arm pain subsided the mucus went from annoying and inconvenient to persistently trying to kill me and thicker than rubber cement. I drank more fluids, especially hot fluids. Slowly the mucus switched to annoying and inconvenient but with a cough. Even with the illness gone, I currently sound like a whiskey drinking chain smoker who gargles broken glass. Although I sang Alto at the Messiah Sing with saintvi, I think I could do a baritone/bass part now…

Looking Exercised

I have been exercising at the university facilities for a couple of months now. I have also been watching my cholesterol and calories. Now I know that there are lots of articles on the internet that say things like “exercise doesn’t result in weight loss” and that this or that diet is the best and even the “take this pill once a day and watch fat melt away without dieting or exercise.” I have read them. And I laugh. As a society we want a quick effortless solution to every problem. Just consider the ADHD issues. Too many parents and teachers want to medicate the kids immediately. They don’t want to put in the work of behavior modification because it is work and it takes time and the results are not instantaneous. Same for some diseases. Take this pill instead of changing your diet and lifestyle! I’ve been arguing with my physician for about 5 years now on whether I need to take a pill to lower my cholesterol. He looks at my lab results and says I will need to go on medication. I look at my lab results and say “I’m going to do it with diet and exercise”. So far I’m doing great at avoiding the statin drugs.

But back to exercise. I walk. The old exercise facility had a large oval track with windows. The new place is a winding and curvy track that is very narrow (compared to the old one). It is 3 lanes wide. Because of the curves the walkers are at risk of being plowed over from behind by one of the runners. I’ve seen a couple near accidents. Granted they’ve put up some of those fish eye mirrors but no one is looking up as they round the corners. Therefore I’ve joined the treadmill crew. There must be 30 different treadmills. I have one that I’m partial to that is closest the locker room (and thus the restroom). All of them are very technologically advanced. You can watch TV, log into Hulu or Netflix, or even Sirius XM radio. You can plug in your headphones or use captioning. It is very deluxe. The one unique option is the “road race” feature that allows you to run across campus or a specific area of the country via the screen on the treadmill. You will travel at whatever speed you set for as long as you run. It is on a loop just as if you were traveling a circular route!

Then there are the other machines. I’m not a fan of most of them. They have a fair number (5?) of these stair stepper things. You can set them to whatever level of difficulty you want but most people are obviously setting them too high. I know this because I see them nearly bent over double trying to climb the stairs. They are struggling. Then the other stair machine looks like giant ladder rungs. You climb up but never get anywhere because the ladder rungs move down as you go up… No thanks. So I do it old school. There are several staircases leading to the track and class rooms on the next floor. I can do 10 reps. When I started I’d be winded after 2 flights. Now I can do 8 before I start to feel it in my legs. I’m pretty proud of myself.

What do you do for exercise??

Looking to Wrap Things Up

Here we are looking at the 3rd Sunday in Advent with only 12 days until Christmas and 18 days from the new year. Time seems to be rushing past me like the air past an open car window. I have tried to slow down and enjoy the season. That said, I still have gifts that I need to wrap. In years past I’ve wrapped using newspaper (all recycled and recyclable), tissue paper, gift bags, and the traditional printed gift wrap. This year I was toying with the idea of not wrapping anything at all. When I mentioned this to the family I was met with blank stares. After a long silent pause while my words sunk in, the consensus was that unwrapping the gifts is part of the fun. So I still have gifts that I need to wrap. I’m planning on wrapping a couple gifts in a devious and devilish manner that may stymie the recipient and require additional tools to open. I considered doing the Saran wrap gift ball with various items trapped within the giant ball of plastic. Then I discarded the idea because that would be a huge waste of the cling wrap and I’m too frugal for that. I have several gifts that must be shipped but I’m not too concerned as they will get to where they are going when they get there.

The end of the year also heralds a multitude of holiday parties. So far I’ve attended a University Retirees Holiday Luncheon where we (Sparky was invited as my spouse) were gifted with certificates for groceries. I went to a lab Christmas luncheon at a ritzy restaurant (no plus ones allowed), a department party just this last Monday where I was included because I am working with one of the researchers. We have a Christmas dinner on the 19th and a choir party on the 22nd and the traditional Christmas Eve breakfast (on the 24th). Believe it or not this has been a real slow down from years past. At least there aren’t any work gift exchanges that I need to buy for!

Through boxes and boxes she sifts
And each name tag she carefully lifts
Peels back the paper
A before Christmas caper
To discover what’s inside her gifts

A little limerick (I really don’t like to write them but sometimes it is like breaking wind and they just oops out) for your anticipatory pleasure. My father was notoriously good at guessing what was inside his presents. I suspect it came from years of hefting boxes and peeking into gifts so that he had honed his skill to the point of clairvoyance! One year my sisters and I went to the mall to purchase a gift. We were so devious (or so we thought). We even had it wrapped at the store. He came to pick us up and when he placed the beautifully wrapped box into the trunk he turned and thanked us for the new bed comforter! We were so dumbfounded that he had guessed!

Looking Exorcised

I listened to a friend relate the horrible week she had endured. She told me that she felt that she didn’t belong in her position, was disrespected, nothing more than a glorified secretary, unworthy, unappreciated, under-educated… To top it off she was going to be interviewing a new hire that she was going to manage. The position required a PhD, and experience that was greater than hers. To top it off their salary would be substantially higher than hers. She was feeling low. Although she was doing her best it didn’t seem to be enough for certain people who “email yelled” at her and then took their complaints to others without waiting for my friend to respond. She was also fighting a battle (without back-up) to secure an office for the new hire. In a wild and totally out of the blue event, she was given an office for the new hire. The building manager even helped her clean out the space and arranged for it to be painted, carpeted, and refurnished! But that wasn’t the best part. The department chair went into a lab where equipment for imaging was housed with another faculty member who wanted to expand into that area. The space had an used office and several empty cubicles in addition to the imaging equipment. The chair exited the lab and saw my friend sitting outside the door where she was waiting for a student to be trained on the imaging machine. The chair asked my friend why she was sitting in the hallway at a student desk (the kind with the arm/desk top on one side). When the chair asked if that was her desk, the response shocked her. “No this isn’t my desk. I don’t actually have a desk or an office.” The chair then pointedly asked why as the associate director she didn’t have an office. Her answer was that she was not a Biology department employee and so was not given an office. (Also she had never dreamed of asking because she felt she didn’t deserve one.) The chair, in a very uncharacteristic manner, replied that she should take the office that was empty in the lab she had just exited. Turning to her secretary indicated that my friend should be given a key. To top it off the building manager told her that new carpet should be installed in that office as well!!

We were eating lunch as she laid out the events. She related this to me and was just flabbergasted that the events had unfolded in such a favorable manner. I had to finally stop her when she started second guessing if she would be able to remain in her new office. Why is it we have no problem believing that our phones, computers, and interfaces (like Alexa or Siri) are eavesdropping on our conversations but can’t accept that God is doing that and more by listening to our hearts and minds? The only explanation for the miraculous boon of getting her very own office plus getting an office for whoever the new hire will be is Divine Intervention. I reminded her that she is educated (a masters degree), she is worthy of respect, she deserves the position. Then I told her that obviously God agrees! I’m hoping that she will be able to exorcise her self-doubt and accept that she is blessed.

Looking Fishy

We finally polished off the turkey leftovers. I was creative and we had Loaded Mashed Potato Soup, Sloppy Toms, and Turkey Potpie. And now it is gone and I don’t want another bite of turkey for awhile. As I was making out the menu for this week I penciled in fish for dinner Sunday. Right after church I pulled 4 packages of fish from the freezer. Each package was different and I set them to thawing. After spending the majority of the afternoon running down various shopping items (needed milk, bananas, kleenex, and sugar) and taking the Christmas photo in for processing, I discovered that one of the fish had not thawed sufficiently to cook. I also discovered that the remaining 3 packages had smoked fish in them. So we had a very Scandinavian dinner. That means it was heavy on the fish and cheese and some dark bread that was more seed than bread!
To the far left is a piece of smoked Trout caught in Indiana, next in the back is a half a smoked steak of Coho Salmon from a secret fishing stream in Michigan, and the small light colored piece in the middle is smoked Brook Trout again caught in Michigan. In the foreground is ~3 Tablespoons of cream cheese with onion, garlic, and bits of smoked Brook trout mixed in. To the side is some special bread Mestemacher Whole Grain Sunflower Seed Rye Bread (toasted). It was a delicious meal and well worth the effort to pick out the few bones.

Before anyone asks – no, I didn’t catch the fish nor did I smoke it. That glory belongs to my former coworker, Mr. Fudd. Fishing is on hiatus until there is a at least 6″ of ice on his lake and he can safely go ice fishing. He has been busy deer hunting. His first day out he managed to get a 9 point buck that about killed him. He had to  haul the 200 lb gutted carcass out of the woods solo and with great effort managed to get it into his truck. He thought his hand wench was in the truck but it wasn’t. He resorted to a tarp and a tow rope and got it in the truck without re-injuring his hernia repair. He is now however wearing a wrist brace. All this fish was gifted to me over the course of this last year and I had been hoarding it because I wasn’t sure I’d ever get more. Now it is all gone and in its place is the faint aroma of fish and a warm glow of satisfaction. We will be splitting a little brown trout for lunch this week (it is barely enough to whet the appetite). I’ll serve acorn squash as a side and maybe cookies (since I’m going to be baking more soon) as a dessert!